“The customer is always right.” We’ve all heard it countless times, even those of us who lack any experience in the business world, and it’s widely accepted as a universal truth, something to be adhered to no matter the circumstances.
However, despite what you’ve been taught, the customer is not infallible. They aren’t always right, and in some cases, the customer can be dead wrong.
The idea behind “The customer is always right” is a good one. It’s based on the premise that it’s important to treat customers with kindness and respect because your business could not exist without them. Good customer service truly is a vital component of most successful businesses, and believe it or not, studies indicate that many customers care more about the way they’re treated by a business’s employees than about things like product price, product selection, or the business’s location.
So yes, the statement is true, but only to a degree. The fact is, there are some customers and clients that your business would probably be better off without. Losing these individuals’ business probably won’t kill your company, and in fact, doing away with them could actually serve to strengthen your business.
But how? How could losing a customer or client possibly make your business better? This point is relatively simple, but it’s probably best illustrated through an industry-specific example:
Imagine a restaurant. There’s an important sports game on, and the restaurant is packed full of people. There’s a line at the door, a crowd of people who have put their names on the list and have been waiting patiently for their turn to be seated. Suddenly, a group of five middle-aged men walks through the door. They make their way through the throng of waiting patrons, barging past and pretending not to hear the hostesses who inform them as politely as possible that there is a waiting list and that they’ll have to wait to be seated. The men walk to the back corner of the restaurant and seat themselves at a table that has just been cleared off.
One of your employees, a waitress at whose table the men have seated themselves, has just finished clearing off the table when one of the men grabs her arm and rudely instructs her to bring to the table a pitcher of beer. She has seen the incident at the front of the restaurant and politely informs the men that this table was intended for someone else, someone who has been waiting their turn. One of the men says that they were never told there was a waiting list, but the waitress knows differently. Again she politely asks the men to get up. She tells them that she heard the hostesses ask the men to wait, and she tells them that they’re welcome to add their name to the list and wait their turn like everyone else.
When they realize that your employee is standing up for the rules and for the other waiting patrons instead of following their orders, the men become angry. They berate the waitress, cursing at her and calling her hurtful names. They tell her to shut up and to “go grab the beer like a good girl.”
As the restaurant manager who has seen the whole incident take place, what do you do? Do you pay homage to the idea of the infallible customer by ignoring the men’s behavior and asking the waitress to serve them anyway? Or do you stick up for your employee?
If you’re a good manager who’s willing to recognize the fact that the customer isn’t always right, then you’ll stick up for your employee. These men are clearly in the wrong, and your employee did everything in her power to control the situation and do the right thing.
There comes a time when you have to recognize that allowing customers to abuse your employees is not the right thing to do. If you stick up for your waitress and tell the men to leave your restaurant, not only will the other patrons likely be happier (especially those who were waiting for the open table that the men stole), but your employees will also see that you are willing to defend them when the situation warrants it.
Consider what would have happened if you’d ignored your employee’s complaints and sided with the customer. Your waitress would have felt betrayed and resentful. By siding against her when she was clearly the one being abused, you’ve just shown her that her loyalty and hard work meant less to you than the $50 bill you got from the men at the table. And how do you think that will affect her work ethic?
This example was certainly industry-specific, but its lesson, that sometimes it’s better for your company and for your employees if you “fire” a customer, can be applied to all types of businesses. Showing your employees that you appreciate them is a great way to instill in them a sense of loyalty and to encourage them to work hard and support your company, and sometimes, showing employees that you appreciate them requires you to take their side when it’s right to do so, even if it means angering a customer.
Your employees consider themselves a member of your team, and it’s not right to throw your team under the bus for the sake of appeasing a customer who’s clearly in the wrong. Stand up for your employees when the situation warrants it, and they’ll reward you in turn with their loyalty and hard work.